Okay, more fun with catfishers, before I get back to my heavy-hitters.
For some reason, a lot of catfishing seems to involve bitcoin, or some sort of cryptocurrency. Once upon a time, bitcoin was extremely anonymous, but not so much anymore. For those that have not been paying attention, the federal government of the United States likes to keep track of everyone’s money. Even though they seem to have a very difficult time with their own purse. But they just come up with more money. Somehow. But we can’t raise taxes. But here’s some money. I don’t get it. Anyway, I digress. The IRS absolutely hates financial anonymity. They didn’t care much for this cryptocurrency business, and through legislation and policy, the anonymity is gone. For the most part…
Frequently, online catfishers will employ the bitcoin tactic. They will start a conversation, which will, of course, quickly turn romantic. The impossibly beautiful person, who is usually a guy in a basement somewhere, will try to move your conversation over to What’s-app, Google’s chat program. The point of this is to take the conversation off of whatever online platform it was initiated on, so that the predator is not reported by someone savvy and banned from future use of said platform. Once on Whats-app, or in some cases not, the conversation, peppered with sexual innuendos and compliments, will invariably turn to bitcoin. The victim, should they fall prey, will then be compelled into giving the catfisher electronic funds. The catfisher will then promise that this money will be invested into bitcoin, and the victim will see a great return. To celebrate, the impossibly beautiful con-artist will promise a meeting for sexual favors, or something akin to that.
Of course, the money is never seen again. An electronic transfer can be difficult to trace. What’s worse, they are extremely difficult to reverse. Often, there is very little a bank can do for you once you’ve been scammed. Then, even though the IRS has the means to track bitcoin, the electronic transfer is then turned into cryptocurrency, moved, laundered really, and never seen again. The criminal has made their money. The victim never hears from their would-be paramour again, and is out whatever amount of cash.
So, enough explanation. Let’s take a look at a conversation I recently had on Instagram, the social media platform that seems to be the new ground of catfishing. This catfisher was not improperly affectionate, like most are, but another way to spot them is their unfamiliarity with America and their atrocious grammar. Unfortunately, some of the conversation I recorded is cropped improperly, but I think you’ll get the gist. Without further ado, I give you: Rosalia Mex! Take it away, Rosalia!
But, this bitcoin tactic is not always funny. I recently had a rather sad encounter.
A long time ago, I had a very good friend, an old acting buddy of mine. In my early 20’s to early 30’s, I was fairly active in Seattle’s theater community, non-equity houses and a couple of independent films, and I had a great time! Sure, I wanted to make a career of it, and was already practicing my Oscar acceptance speech, but the industry is flooded with talent, and, no matter what your level of skill, breaking into the Big Time is extremely difficult. I enjoyed it, but I eventually left it behind. I still utilize the skill, especially when I need to display some measure of excitement or deception, or use the big voice to get a point across. It’s a great performance art to be involved in.
Anyway, back to my friend. He was one of the best actors I had ever seen, a rugged style, unique in his voice and performance. A character actor, perhaps, but my friend still possessed incredible range and depth in his skill. He was not only a fellow actor, but a fantastic friend. For a brief time, he and I were very close; devoted X-Files fans, fellow stoners, and a similar outlook on life – sense of humor, and a precocious ability of males to not be ashamed of their emotions. We eventually drifted apart, as often happens to young friendships. However, I would, from time to time, track his career. My old friend seemed to be having some level of success at the professional level. I was very excited for him, he was making it! However, well over 10 or 15 years ago, he seemed to drop off the professional acting radar.
Only by chance, I happened to stumble across him again on, of course, Instagram. The following is our conversation. Bear in mind, I had not seen nor spoken to this dear, old friend in a very, very long time. We had so much to catch up on. The conversation quickly turned into a direction I was not expecting.
I found this kind of sad. You’ll notice I asked him a specific detail I knew about his career, as I could not believe I was having this conversation with him. But he was correct.
Be that as it may, part of me still refuses to believe this was actually my old friend. But I think it was. It was shocking to finally catch up with him, only to be instantly pitched cryptocurrency. Perhaps he was involved in a scam, perhaps not. That’s not important. What threw me for a bad loop was his betrayal of our ancient friendship, his disregarding of our memories and the time that separated them, and his willingness to use me as a sales goal, legitimate or not.
Afterwards, I looked him up on IMDB. He is still acting. I don’t know why he said he wasn’t. I don’t know why he was throwing bitcoin investment at me. It was very disheartening.
Well, you think you know some people…
Thank you! Wash your hands! Wear a mask, only if you feel the need or the establishment asks you to! No mask shaming, either direction! Get vaccinated! Or not, patient autonomy! Take care of yourselves!
Well, what can I tell you…
Time to take a break from my polemic assault posts on my less-than wonderful experiences with UW Medicine, and bust some more catfishers!
In my opinion, online dating is one the biggest money makers/scams going on the internet. I get it: so many people are very lonely, especially in these troubled times. But paying money repeatedly to various apps and websites that promise you love (or at least a romp in the sack) just does not work. It is mere window shopping. It is no way to meet someone. Or, at least, this is what I have been told. Really. What?!?
I wrote about the phenomenon called catfishing a few posts back, briefly. I thought I would revisit the subject, as I have recently had quite a few laughs. Catfishing is when an online potential partner presents themselves as someone they are not, offering affection, love, or even sex, in order to scam a lonely person out of money. Many of us are familiar with them, but some people still fall prey. According to the FBI, in 2018, 18,000 people were the victims of catfishing.
This is a great article on the classic catfisher methods, and how to spot them:
Catfishers will attempt to scam you on just about any social media platform. Recently, on Instagram, I have been abruptly approached by several of them. They are generally easy to spot. I am a 49 year old man, and comeliness is not my gift. When a 26 year old woman, who usually is questionably successful for her age, and looks like a model/porn star, comes on to me on Instagram, that’s a major red flag. Also, they usually have a horrible time with grammar and proper English, another huge red flag. In fact, red flags 100% of the time.
At first, it just kind of annoyed me. I spotted it right away. But after my annoyance, it got kind of fun. And so, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Veronica Smith:
Okay, so that was a bit harsh of me. Maybe she was genuine. I really kinda doubt it, though. Just intuition, a gut feeling, if you will. Anyway, I was then later on contacted by another catfisher. Second on tonight’s card is: Nini! Take it away, Nini!
Well, they don’t always have to be female catfishers, affectionate right out of the gate, promising love and commitment. A catfisher can easily be a male, trying to con you out of money by promising more even more money back to you. With that being said, let’s have a conversation with… Tankblowin!
Well, that was a brief but enjoyable conversation with Tankblowin. To wrap this post up, let’s go over my wonderful conversation with: Jenifer! She and I both work in healthcare, so we really bonded quickly. I had a lot of holes in my education, but Jenifer was able to intelligently answer them. Here we go!
Well, unfortunately, the conversation abruptly ended after that. That’s really too bad; I thought we were a cute couple and we really clicked. And the way she handled my healthcare questions was amazing, almost like she wrote Wikipedia herself! I’m still kind of sad about it. I’ll be okay. I will. Just… I wanna be by myself for a bit. I’m okay. It’s not you, it’s me. In, your, eyes…….
That was fun. You know, I keep getting catfished like this. I thought I would keep recording the conversations and keep an album going, but it got kind of tedious. So now, whenever an impossibly hot 20-year-old medical doctor with huge bazingas who’s practicing in Africa reaches out to me, or a gentleman named ChiefMoney contacts me, I just ignore it and block it.
This has been a cautionary tale. Don’t fall for these charlatans, these ne’er do wells!
Thank you! Stay safe! Wash your hands! Get vacced, and if you haven’t, really give it some thought! Take care of yourselves and each other! Avoid Florida!
Well, what can I tell you…
Thank you all for the well-wishes the other day. My collapse was brief, and I’m back on my feet, nearly. I’ll head back to work this week.
I mentioned it in my column in The Seattle Times: mental illness, in my opinion, cannot be cured, only learned to live with. That is the skill I have been working on ever since my suicide attempt. It’s not easy, and for those of you who have known me for a while, you’re probably aware, on some level, that it’s been a struggle my entire adult life. But, it was not until last year’s suicide attempt that I have tackled my condition in earnest.
What I’ve come to learn is, it’s not just the medications. Psychotherapy is just as valuable in healing and recovery, if not more so. It just happens to be much more work, and in our day and age of ‘just give me a pill’ the process of exploring your emotions and how you react to them, and thus perceive the world and yourself in the present, is often seen as too laborious and a time-consuming a process. It’s much easier to find a magic-bullet medication, and just feel great. Well, it doesn’t work that way…
I’ll write about it soon, as it was quite illuminating: my recent, very brief time in Harborview Psychiatric. Wow. It’s not exactly the Disneyland of mental health treatment. I don’t know what they were, but I saw at least one of them flying over the cuckoo’s nest… But that story is for an upcoming post.
But, each time I slip and relapse, it becomes much easier to get back on my feet.
One of the most painful things about depression is the loneliness one might feel. You may have friends and family, but the loneliness persists. You may become bitter, silently, with people who say they are there for you or will reach out to check in on you, but, in a depressed mind’s perception, people never do. Even if they do. You beat yourself up even further, thinking that no one wants to talk to you, because you’re ill, and people find you creepy, or think that depression is contagious. (It kind of can be, but not like a virus. If it was, perhaps there would be a vaccine. That half the country wouldn’t take, because it would turn them into lizards or something…. my freedom!!! I digress…) Whether or not you have people in your life who communicate with you, the illness tricks you into thinking you are incredibly alone, and that no one cares. Which precludes the afflicted form reaching out and asking for help, or mere company. It’s a viscous pattern in the head.
However, sometimes the afflicted is truly alone. I don’t have that misfortune, but many with mental illness do. It adds to the suffering, infecting the wound so that healing becomes even more difficult.
Loneliness can be very debilitating overall. Compounded with depression, or just about any other mental illness, one’s physical health will suffer, as well. The following article is brilliant:
One of the ways people feel the most alone when in a deep depressive episode is the lamentation of being single, of having no romantic partner. That doesn’t always happen with me; I just don’t have the best track record. Being single, for me anyway, is fine right now. And yet, a depressive mind will tell itself that it is alone for a reason: you are ugly, you are unsuccessful, no one would want you, etc. In a rational mind, these thoughts, for most, can be easily dispelled with proper cognition. But there is a small bit of truth here: no one would want to be your romantic partner if you wallow in sadness with a condition that, all too often, is not being properly addressed.
In this day and age, meeting a potential partner can be very difficult. I prefer the old-fashioned way; I see a nice lady, and I go up and talk to her. I have no problem being a dork, I own it. I just act like myself. Suffice it to say, it rarely works. Say, 3 times out of 10, I get a positive response. Those are bad odds. Unless, using proper cognition, you look at it like baseball. In that sport, if a batter gets on base 3 times out of 10, (that is to say: he’s batting .300) those are damn good numbers. So it’s all in how you look at it. It may be distorting the truth, but depression does that already, anyway.
In this ugly new age of Covid, and all the bullshit that has come with it (we don’t have enough time to talk about all that…), it has become even more difficult to meet people. Isolation has reigned for so long, literally and socially. Many people are still afraid, and stick to their tribes or familiar social circles. This, combined with the Information Age, has enabled a new way to meet someone you might like: online dating.
I have very little experience in online dating. I’ll cover more of that in a future piece. But one does not even have to sign up for a dating website; often, people will connect randomly, after a complimentary comment on Facebook or Instagram or something.
However, 11 times out of 10, these random connections on social media tend to be what are known as: scams. Catfisher. The person contacting you will misrepresent themselves, often to trick you out of money (either gift cards, cryptocurrency, or cold hard cash), personal information, or something called What’s-app, a platform where even more information can be extorted.
What follows is a conversation I happened to strike up on Instagram. Recently, I have noticed that impossibly beautiful women, usually 19 year-olds with huge bazingas who have advanced medical degrees and work in refugee camps in Africa or something, will contact me unsolicited. I can spot it immediately. Sometimes it’s fun to toy with them. What follows is an example of one such conversation. I saw this woman, who claimed to be a fashion model (you don’t say!) send me a friend request on Instagram. I thought I might have some fun, and reached out and contacted her. I introduced myself, and she almost instantly said she was single. The conversation we subsequently had is as follows:
She doesn’t bat an eye at ‘tree repairing’….
Rather forward, isn’t she?
She gets right to the point! She’s also not noticing my intentionally poor grammar….
I don’t waste anytime starting the video call! But golly, it doesn’t work!
That number I gave her is the FBI contact line.
I’m just gonna have fun, now…
I’ve just had enough at this point. I’ve got stuff to do.
‘Ok’…. The mother of all comebacks!!!
I dunno…. am I being too harsh?
Well, that was fun. I’ve got a few more that I might post, but I’m writing a lot about my recovery, my bumpy ups and downs, and my recent experience at Harborview. More to come…
Thank you everyone! Take care of yourselves, and each other! Wash your hands! Get vaccinated!
Bye for now,
Well, what can I tell you…
Though I write about healthcare, I thought I would indulge myself, and explain my story to all who have wondered about my recent absence. It is a narrative I carried alone, trapped in my own world, blinded to the chaos that was slowly tearing me apart. I succumbed, badly, to the an illness that has haunted me all of my life, the mental illness of depression, the parasite that lies below the deepest level of consciousness, feeding you lies, repeating your defeats, feeding off your despair, until you either collapse from exhaustion or end your pain.
I had been pushing myself, exceedingly, for the last 2 and half years. I felt the parasite awakening, yet I attempted to do the impossible; ignore its subtle screaming, the terror it inflicts when you are alone with your thoughts. For alone I found myself, isolated by choice or design, tackling problem after problem, ignoring the parasite, smashing through problems without processing the damage they were doing, until my system collapsed.
It’s all one system, one’s emotions and one’s body. If depression, and its children: anxiety, hatred, isolation, fear, insecurity and self-loathing are not addressed, the body will find other ways to express the darkness. Be it an ulcer, a bad back, fatigue, headaches, or a general malaise and inability to enjoy life, the parasite will do its damage.
Pushing myself, to the limit. Imagine it this way: You’re Mad Max (or Furiosa) driving the War Rig, pedal to the floor, both V8 engines screaming in protest. You smash through smaller vehicles, bashing them off to the side. But the obstacles add up, and the War Rig takes damage. Engine one starts to overheat. Armor shreds from your frame. A tire blows. Yet the pedal is still to the floor. You empty the tank of nitrous oxide into the engines, blowing one, the remaining engine howling in protest. You reach an incline. Ignoring the clutch, you shift from 5th to 3rd, pedal still to the floor. The War Rig begins to rattle and shake, parts flying off. Eventually, the remaining engine explodes, and the War Rig falls to pieces, a wreck of burning metal. Max is thrown from the vehicle, smashing into the unforgiving sand of the cruel desert, critically wounded.
To put in medical terms, I was pushing myself, as the War Rig, for far too long. I had goals, achievements to tend to. Yet the universe kept throwing me deep curve balls, as it will do. When my mind was stuck in overdrive, my amygdala, the part of your brain that senses danger, had put my system in constant fight or flight mode for far too long. I was not resting myself properly, as my body was continually flooded with cortisol and norepinephrine. One can only run this way for so long. I had run this way for over 2 years. Eventually, my system was shut down by a final, dark act. I collapsed.
To recap succinctly, in 2019, I left a relationship of 13 years after I confessed to an opioid addiction. In 2020, I started school to study healthcare, and become a Medical Assistant. I pushed myself very hard, as I had not exactly excelled as a student in my early 20’s. It paid off with good grades, yet it was a difficult ride, much more than I thought it would be. In early 2021, as I waited 4 months for my license to come through from the Department of Health, I continued to push myself. I self-studied and achieved 4 more front-line healthcare certifications. I continued to study.
This was not without its difficulties. In January of 2021, I was so blinded by my trust of a psychiatrist who had helped for nearly 30 years, that I ignored the obvious fact that this physician had collapsed himself. I found him prescribing me painkillers or benzodiazepines. I would give him the drugs in exchange for cash. At one point, I was doing a drug deal with my psychiatrist in front of my apartment, in his nice car. Looking back, this is absurd, yet somehow I still trusted this man. The parasite was already blinding me, and I did not think the logical response through.
In February of 2013, I lost my father at the age of 92, weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. When a parent dies, there is a long list of logistics that needs attention: the estate, bank accounts, retirement and pension notifications, cremation, writing obituaries, and much more. My mother and I called it the ‘Dad List.’ My beloved mother, who still luckily is with me, was in rough shape, so I tackled the Dad List myself, practically alone, even yet as I continued to push myself with studying, learning, writing a new book. I had no time to grieve.
I had been tending to my older Niece, a young woman I love dearly. She had been suffering a similar ailment, and I was in constant communication with her. I watched as she herself collapsed, yet I refused to let this happen.
In early March, I was contacted by the mother of Brown Eyes, a post I had written earlier (you can find it further down). These were not easy conversations. Yet I refused to acknowledge the emotions.
I started having seizures, inexplicably. I chalked them up to bad panic attacks, though they were quite different. This was the pain I carried trying to find a way out.
In April, my wayward and dysfunctional psychiatrist suddenly announced he could no longer practice. He gave me no referral to another physician. This is the civil crime of abandonment, to say nothing of his felony of prescription fraud. My anxiety started to flare up. I suddenly had no access to the medications he had prescribed me.
At this time, my practitioner license was approved, and I began work at a community clinic in Seattle. It was a bad fit from the beginning. The clinic tried its best, but it was poorly run, with the small budget they had. There were constant violations of the CDC’s Standard Precautions. When I brought this up to the Lead MA, for the third time, she informed that it was not a priority for her. I was assigned with a provider, an MD who, despite a caring heart, did not exactly have her head in the game. She was constantly late, and expressing her personal problems. She never had a kind thing to say about me, but instead complained about my rooming speed. I squared that away quickly. She would still be with her first patient, and I had already roomed her next two, and I would find myself in the lobby telling her 4th patient that she was running late, if they’d like to reschedule. Once, I politely and professionally explained to this MD, as she treated a patient, that another treatment option may be a better idea for a particular type of wound. She agreed. Afterwards, in our small station, she turned to me and said: “You know things.” Yes. Yes I do. I over-studied. I paid attention. I had intended to make healthcare my life.
Eventually, this job did not work out. The Lead MA and I had a heated discussion, and I resigned. She did not take this well.
During this time, though I had no psychiatrist, I was able to get my medications squared away by general practitioners at Harborview.
It was not long before I found a second job. I joined the big leagues, UW Medicine. My first few weeks there were fantastic. I was doing, successfully, procedures I had never been trained on, only after a few words of instruction from an RN. I took to it easily and comfortably. When the Lead MA returned from PTO, she immediately did not like me. She bullied, harassed me, and was inappropriate, since the Monday she returned. By that Thursday, I had heard enough. I calmly called her out on her behavior. She became emotional, borderline irrational. Later that day, she was observing me room a patient. I apparently did something wrong, even though by that time I had roomed countless patients. The Lead MA shouted at me, and proceeded to strike me. Hit me. Commit 4th degree assault.
I spoke to her immediately afterwards, telling her that it was never okay to strike another employee. She became hysterical, spouting histrionics that I could not understand. The event left me shaken. Two horrible MA jobs in a row. I was able to secure a few days off, after I wrote to HR to lodge a complaint. Before I left, the Clinic Administrator informed me that the Lead MA would be keeping her job and her position. I did not understand how this was possible. In any line of work, no matter what your station, there is only one repercussion for striking an employee.
When I returned from my leave, I met immediately in a conference room with the Clinic Manager and some freeloader from HR. For 20 minutes, they berated me for all the mistakes I had been making. I was shocked. I was never made aware, by anyone, of any errors I had made. In fact, the only feedback I had received from the Clinic Administrator was an email I received from her in the first week, telling me she had heard great things about me. That’s it. But these two women continued to harass me, 2 on 1. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have asked for representation, be it an attorney, a union representative, or the Terminator. I asked for specifics about my mistakes. I received none. The Clinic Administrator said that mistakes in our industry could cost lives. I took this to mean that I was making deadly errors, that I did not care, yet still no specifics. How insulting. The freeloader from HR informed that these are mistakes that no one should be making, when I finally spoke up in protest. I have no idea what her response meant. The Clinic Administrator informed me that in the coming days, she would explain the specifics of my grievous errors. She never did.
Eventually, they brought the Lead MA into the room, the woman who had committed a crime against me, yet was protected from losing her job by the nepotism, the priority of image and prestige over humanity of the institution, and favoritism of the Clinic Administrator. The Lead MA began to cry, mumbled things I could not hear, and would not look nor speak to me. Inexplicably, the freeloader from HR handed us both pamphlets about respecting other cultures and proper body language. I was beyond confused. It is lamentable that I did not keep that pamphlet, as I was running low on toilet paper.
I returned to work upstairs at the clinic. It was hellish, walking on eggshells. The Lead MA would not talk to me, despite my attempts to work things out with her. The Clinic Administrator would not talk to me. It was a disastrously uncomfortable environment. A per diem MA took over my training, yet I found it insulting, as I had already accomplished, successfully, the basics of being an MA at that clinic. The parasite of depression awoke abruptly. My body, which I had pushed so hard, began to shut down.
On the morning of September 24th, I awoke at 2AM to a horrible panic attack. I was not thinking clearly. To put it bluntly: I attempted suicide. I began to overdose on my medications. While I was doing so, Mia, my lovely cat, walked into my room. She and I have bonded, human and animal. I could see the look on her face: What are you doing? I immediately remembered the lesson of Brown Eyes, and thought of the people I would hurt. The first person I thought of was my younger niece, who had just left for college in Nebraska. I stopped. I called 911.
Two days after I was released from the hospital, I found out that my younger Niece was in a psychiatric unit herself, for similar reasons.
The best thing that came out of my stint in the hospital was a social worker securing me care with a regular psychiatrist and therapist. This slightly heartened me. When I got home form the hospital, the Clinic Administrator almost immediately called me. She said she called to ask how I was doing, and to explain the call-out procedure. She did not ask how I was doing. Instead, she berated me for not correctly calling out. Hard to do when you’re suicidal. This contemptible woman could not be pried form her precious regulations with a crowbar. I resigned, my second failed MA job.
My collapse was abrupt. I began having the seizures more regularly. I learned these were called psychogenic seizures; not epilepsy, but the brain’s way of expressing inner pain and trauma. I could not sleep. My fatigue was overpowering.
My new psychiatrist, and my new therapist, helped me a great deal, and continue to do so. The psychiatrist reported my old psychiatrist for malpractice, abandonment, and prescription fraud. She began to unravel the medications the previous doctor had piled on me. She is a skilled provider.
Yet, initially, my recovery was slow. Stops and starts. I felt empty inside. A burned out, empty shell of a desolate man. Wandering the wasteland, alone.
Only it turns out I was not alone.
Several people contacted me. I am forever in their gratitude. To suffer alone is like an injury that has become infected, refusing to heal.
It was worth noting that my problems were not taking place in a vacuum. As I fell, the world fell around me, and continues to fall. The Old World is gone. We have all suffered the effects of this terrible virus, on one way or another, and our society has not handled it as well as it could, to put it lightly. Sadly, the ineptitude, and the countless deaths, continue.
It is also worth noting, strongly, that my suffering is by no means unique. My pain does not make me special. I am seeking not pity; I am merely explaining myself.
When I engaged, finally, with other people, it was shocking to hear their own tales of damage. Wounds that haunt them still. Each of us in our own way is broken.
One of the strongest pieces of advice I heard was from an old classmate. She did not ask me the details of my experiences outlined here. She simply said that life will damage us all, and we one day took a walk, enjoying the present, the here and now, as winter in Seattle closed in.
Another former classmate said that she would keep me in her prayers, and that she would always be available if I needed to talk. She suggested a helpful Bible verse. I am agnostic, but to know that someone cares enough to share something that is deeply helpful to her, and to include me in her petitions to her God, was profoundly uplifting.
I reconnected with a great old friend, and old manager of mine at Chase Bank. She told me her stories. They, understandably, damage her still. Yet she is such a beautiful, compassionate and caring person. It moved me when I heard how badly she had been mistreated by life.
Perhaps the greatest connection I made was a completely random one. Someone, a stranger I did not yet know, reached out to me. It was odd and unexpected at first. But we grew quite familiar with each other very quickly. Her story of life ruthlessly damaging and tormenting her was so much worse than mine. Yet she and I had the same outlook, the same determination to live. And this wonderful person was my Mirror, so similar were our stories. We connected quite strongly, and to have her in my life was a gift, as my recovery grew stronger.
We were so comfortable together, as if we’d known each other before our world began. And to be with her, next to her, was my isolated little Paradise. I had the best Valentine’s Day ever!
She was truly my Sunshine. My heart beat strong for her. And yet, the logistics of our world can be cruel and unforgiving. When she needed me most, I could not be there for her. It crushed me to see the one I loved so much, the one I wanted to grow old with, suffer and crash. But I could not help her, could not save her. I was shattered when our communion was broken. There is a Sunshine-shaped hole in my heart.
I also recently lost a dear friend, not to death but to her decision: my Furiosa herself, a story for another time. I don’t blame her, but this one stings as much as any loss of death. Sometimes I wonder if it’s me or not. It is hard to know who is actually crazy. Me, or everyone else. And so I exist in this wasteland known as my recovery, hunted by my own fate, haunted by those I have lost. I am the one who runs from both the living and the dead.
Yes, my heart still beats. I breathe in air. I am still here, for a purpose or not, I do not know. I do not know what my future holds. I have lost my love of healthcare and medicine, something I invested so much of time and life to. I am day to day. I question myself, everyday: will my story shine light a light, or end in the dark?
I am not hopeless, somewhere under all this is a dormant strength yet to be summoned, yet to be called into action. But hope is a mistake… if you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane. And these days, I intend to. Writing is one way, an expression of pain that conversely be helpful, so bear with me. I am still here. I am one of the living.
This is my story, self-pitying and self-indulgent as some may see it. Fine, read something else. But it is my perception. And the events are real. But my fate, even still, could be far worse:
So many in our world are suffering, far worse than me. It is up to me, and all of us, to help when we can. Love and compassion, their day is coming. Each of us must do our place. Do not ignore the suffering of others, or your own. Now more than ever, our world needs this.
This we all know; the years travel by quickly. But my tale is not my own tale, it is the tale of us all, in one way or another. And we must listen, and remember, so that this dark age we live in, and the mistakes we have made; we must tell the young ones of tomorrow. It is hurtful, as the Old World is now gone. Yet time counts, and keeps on counting. Getting back what has been and has been lost is no easy road. But this is our fate, and we must travel it, and no one knows where it’s going to lead. The light at the end of the tunnel must stay lit, for all of them that are still out there, suffering alone. Because if I intend to do it, anyone can seize the distant light, and come home.
RIP: RKS, JI, DC, HH
GB: AP, HF, CP, CS
Well, what can I tell you…
Most of my posts recently have been rather heavy, and personal. I thought I would trot out another attempt at medical humor that (actually!) happened to me on the job.
Everyday, before a Medical Assistant begins seeing patients, there’s a litany of things to take care of. Some mornings are busy, some run smooth; but, the ducks need to be in a medical row before showtime can begin and the first patient is seen. You’ve got to meet with your provider and pow-wow the day, make sure every room is stocked, make sure you’ve got equipment set aside for any special procedures that day, and gulp down about a gallon and a half of coffee.
Nearly every hospital or facility uses what’s called an EHR, or: electronic health record. This is essentially the operating system of the clinic. You can see all sorts of nifty PHI (patient health information) here, as well as the schedule for the day. Many facilities use an EHR known as Epic, although there are others. The days of paper system providers are practically an anachronism.
In February of 2009, President Barack Obama signed the HITECH act, or the: Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. The goal of this act was to compel ‘meaningful use’ of electronic health records; that is, to facilitate national healthcare information between different healthcare facilities, and to promote the safety of patients by digitally checking drug interactions, duplicate orders, unrecorded allergies, a current medication list, and a host of other measures.
There are, of course, drawbacks to this measure. Any electronic system of information can be hacked. If you’d rather not be discouraged, please do not read this:
To be fair, nearly all modern healthcare facilities use state-of-the-art electronic security systems for their internal network, with an army of techies constantly guarding it. The chances of someone cracking into a hospital’s system are extremely low. So please, do not follow this link:
But, by and large, your information is quite safe. Another criticism of the electronic health record system is the difficulty transmitting information from one facility to another. Within the same company, it’s not a problem. But if Epic goes to link a patient’s PHI from another healthcare company, the results can be quite variable. Sometimes, the information is linked immediately. Other times, the targeted EHR does not respond; or, in some cases, it does, but painfully slow. However, when it works, it’s a fantastic tool for healthcare practitioners.
Still another criticism is purely opinion, one I have heard from many in the industry, and not necessarily my own. The Department of Health contributed nearly $37 billion dollars to promote the adoption of EHRs. This was a worthwhile incentive for a worthy endeavor, but essentially, this all but rendered small, private practices extinct. It is extremely expensive for a small provider or a facility to convert from a paper records system to an electronic system, generally running over 6 figures per provider. Thus, the Amazon analogy applies.
Personally, I find the Epic EHR a great system, easy to use, very customizable, and a wealth of PHI. I could not imagine doing my work without it. In my opinion, the developers have done a fine job.
But, back to the matter at hand: the beginning of a Medical Assistant’s day. Within Epic, there is a schedule for the day feature, listing the patient, their pertinent information, the time and length of visit, and, at the click of a button, whatever else you need to know. Perhaps the most useful category on this list is: ‘reason for visit.’
It was early on in my healthcare career, while I was an extern at a primary care clinic, using Epic. My mentor, who had the grace and social skills of a rabid possum trying to do math, asked me what reasons patients were coming in for today. I glanced at the computer monitor showing Epic, looking under the reason for visit column. There is was.
At least 8 of the 14 or so patients coming in that day, for our provider, were listed as ‘ED follow up.’
My God, I thought. These poor patients. So many. One of them was only in his early 20’s…
Erectile dysfunction is no laughing matter. So go ahead, get it out of your system. Go ahead with your vienna sausage problem jokes. Yuck it up. But the truth is, erectile dysfunction can be a very debilitating, and alarmingly frequent condition. It affects over 30 million men in the United States. The causes can be quite varied: diets, medications, neurological disorders, psychological disorders, kidney disease, age, lifestyle habits, and many others.
Sadly, one of its main side effects, other than the ability for a male to perform during sex, is psychological. There are a myriad of of psychological reasons why this is important to men, a topic for another time. But erectile dysfunction can cause seriously debilitating psychological damage to a male. Self-esteem can take a massive hit, and depression can result. A male may feel woefully inadequate, a self-defeating thought which pervades other areas of the man’s life. It is an embarrassing condition, one which men don’t like to talk about, it sucks, it’s no fun, women laugh at you, you think you’re worthless, I hate myself, no one will ever love me again, I am only half a man, why does God hate me, I…. wait, who am I talking about, here? I wasn’t talking about me! WHAT?!? Anyway, I digress.
There are, of course, many treatments available for ED. Depending on the cause and severity, it may range from a simple medication or lifestyle change, all the way up to an unfortunate but life changing surgery. It can be fixed.
So, my mentor asked me the reasons for patient visiting that day. I really didn’t know what to say. I paused, turned to her, recalling that this is healthcare, and said to her: “It looks like we have a lot of patients coming in today for ED.”
She looked even more annoyed than usual, looked at her screen (with the same schedule pulled up), and scowled. Turning back to me, and said, with the tone and temperment of a ferret with a flamethrower: “Some of these patients are female!” Huh? I looked back at Epic. I hovered the mouse cursor over the reason for visit column. (Epic has this neat feature… hover to discover… you pull up more detailed info when hovering the cursor over the subject…) Further information was displayed in an expansion of the display.
“Emergency Department follow up for dog bite.” “Emergency Department follow up for sore lower back.” “Emergency Department follow up for transient tachycardia.”
Ah. Emergency Department follow up. E.D., not E.D. Well, egg on my silly face! I learned that day something very important: in healthcare, what is colloquially known as the ’emergency room’ or ‘ER’ is actually called the ’emergency department.’ Well, that’s good to know. Would have been nice if that had been in the classroom curriculum. Back to you, Jaimers!
So, there you have it. If you need to go to the ER, it’s just fine to call it that. Let’s say you go in for a bad bee sting or something. Then, the staff there will advise you to follow up with your regular provider. When you schedule that follow up appointment, behind the scenes, Epic will list the reason for your visit as an ED follow up. But don’t worry. You don’t have ED. Especially those of you coming in for gynecological exams.
As an aside, my mentor turned out to be a very cool person. She and I keep in touch, years later, as she was very instrumental to my success. Although, I remember more than a few times, while I was turning an exam room (cleaning it and restocking it after a patient’s visit), I overheard her say: “Having an extern rules. He has to do whatever I tell him. I love that!” Heh. She was a great mentor, and a great Medical Assistant, and very much part of my education. Thank you again, KK at Wedgewood.
Well, there you have it! Take care of yourselves! Wash your hands! Get vaccinated! Be good to each other! Bye for now.
TY: KK, UWM – Wedgewood, JP
Well, I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been busy repairing myself, and working on another writing project. It was just published in the Seattle Times today!
My mental health has greatly improved. And my cat is a life-saver.
I’ll write a post again soon. Take care of yourselves!
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
TY: HF, AP, PS, TS, CS, CP, Dr. LE, LMHC CL-K, Mia the Cat